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Crewmembers reach the Red Planet in simulated Mars mission

January 28, 2011 - MOSCOW

Six crewmembers land on the Red Planet and start surface operations in the first full-duration simulation of a manned flight to Mars. The Mars500 crew began the 520-day isolation project on Jun 3 and the simulated departure from Earth orbit on Jun 14. A noted British astronomer regards manned space missions as superfluous, an opinion that implicitly questions the value of the ambitious simulation under way in Russia. There is no sign spacefarer nations are listening to him. The Moscow Institute of Medical and Biological Problems, with support from the European Space Agency, aims to simulate almost all aspects of a journey to the Red Planet, with a 250-day outward trip, a 30-day stay on its surface, and a 240-day return flight. The present simulation is the last phase of an experiment that began in 2007. The first phase of 14 days tested the facilities and operational procedures. The second phase followed in 2009, when four Russian and two European crewmembers were shut into the facility for 105 days. Russian engineer Alexei Sitev, Russian surgeon Sukhrob Kamolov, Russian general practitioner Alexander Smolevsky, Italian Diego Urbina, China's Wang Yue and Roman Charles from France are the members of the present team.

Six crewmembers land on the Red Planet and start surface operations in the first full-duration simulation of a manned flight to Mars. The Mars500 crew began the 520-day isolation project on Jun 3 and the simulated departure from Earth orbit on Jun 14. A noted British astronomer regards manned space missions as superfluous, an opinion that implicitly questions the value of the ambitious simulation under way in Russia. There is no sign spacefarer nations are listening to him. The Moscow Institute of Medical and Biological Problems, with support from the European Space Agency, aims to simulate almost all aspects of a journey to the Red Planet, with a 250-day outward trip, a 30-day stay on its surface, and a 240-day return flight. The present simulation is the last phase of an experiment that began in 2007. The first phase of 14 days tested the facilities and operational procedures. The second phase followed in 2009, when four Russian and two European crewmembers were shut into the facility for 105 days. Russian engineer Alexei Sitev, Russian surgeon Sukhrob Kamolov, Russian general practitioner Alexander Smolevsky, Italian Diego Urbina, China's Wang Yue and Roman Charles from France are the members of the present team. During nearly two years of isolation, the crew members will experience many of the conditions likely to be encountered by astronauts on a real space flight, except for radiation and weightlessness. If British Astronomer Royal Martin Rees has any say, the only spacefarers subjected to radiation and weightlessness in the foreseeable future will be probes and robots. In an interview reported by the Guardian in July, he said there is no need for manned spaceflight. Professor of cosmology and astrophysics at Cambridge University, Rees believes sending people into space is pointless and a waste of money, given recent advances in unmanned space technology. Rees is coming to the end of his term as president of the prestigious Royal Society. He said large scale manned space missions like the moon landings are probably a thing of the past, and that the practical case for sending man back into space gets weaker and weaker with every advance in robotics and miniaturization. Spacefarer nations still have manned missions in their sights. In the United States, President Barak Obama has pledged to land a man on an asteroid by 2025, and believes manned spacecraft will be orbiting Mars by the 2030s. In Europe, ESA is involved in the Mars500 simulation. China has already put men in Space, and India hopes to send two men into low Earth orbit by 2016. (Last updated Aug 2010)

Mars500 web

No need for manned spaceflight, says astronomer royal Martin Rees (Guardian 26 Jul 2010)

Date written/update: 2011-01-28